HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES
RISE OF NORTHERN CAPITALISM
WHILE Southern society was approaching the final stages of its development and displaying signs of inevitable disintegration, Northern society was leaping into the vigorous strength of adult power. The industrial revolution that brought the factory system, the growth of great cities, the annihilation of space, the piling up of vast profits, was in full swing.
The railroad had passed the experimental stage mechanically, financially, and politically. It was now ready to work the social transformation of which it was capable. Until about 1845 railroads were built simply to unite two neighboring cities, or as links in a canal system, or to bring some specific product to market. Each important city was a "terminal" of one or more roads connecting it with some comparatively near-by place. There was no idea of a general system binding a whole section or sections of the country together.1
The total mileage had been steadily increasing. There were 23 miles in 1830, 2818
in 1840, and 9021 in 1850. When these were welded into systems covering large
sections and giving to these sections an industrial and social unity they had not
and could not have known before, the mileage leaped to 30,635 by
1 Emory R. Johnson, "American Railway Transportation," p. 25.
2 A. S. Bolles, "Industrial History of the United States," p. 635.
The North had far outstripped the South in the extent of its railroad building. According to Helper the "free" states had 17,855 miles of railroad in 1857, while the "slave" states contained but 6859 miles.' Yet because the South controlled the national government, that section had been especially favored in the matter of land grants. The system of giving land from the public domain to corporations with which to build railroads that should remain in private hands was begun with the grant to the Illinois Central in 1850. Although this road was located in a wage labor state, it was intended to benefit the South by linking the upper Mississippi Valley with the Gulf of Mexico.1
This use of the national government for internal improvements was one of the
points where the interests of the North and the South clashed. The South did not
favor internal improvements in any whole-hearted manner, and when it did favor
any specific improvement it demanded that it be located in the South.2
The Pacific railway could not be built while the South controlled the national
government.3 There was a feature of the discussion of the Pacific
Railway that showed how the North was beginning to shape the national mind. Until
about 1850, in all discussions of a railway across the continent, it was taken
for granted that it was to be built by the national government, and be owned by
that government. By 1855 the idea of individual or corporate ownership
1 H. R. Helper, "The Impending Crisis," p. 285. 2 A. S. Bolles, lx. cit., p. 643.
2 John P. Davis, "The Union Pacific Railway," Chap. III; Brown, "The Lower South in American History," p. 68.
3 Davis, loc. cit., pp. 66-67.
was accepted in Congressional discussions with almost equal unanimity.1 Along the railroad went the telegraph, completing the work of solidifying the life of the industrial sections. The first telegraph line was built from Washington to Baltimore in 1844. It was extended to New York the same year, and to Boston the next. By 1850 there were 22,000 miles of telegraph in operation, and by 1860 this had grown to 50,000, and the Western Union had laid the foundation of its monopoly.
It was the telegraph that really made possible an extensive railroad system. It is hard to-day to think of railroad operation without some method of communication independent of and faster than the trains themselves.
The telegraph annihilated space in the transmission of information, and made it
possible for a whole section, and later for a whole nation and the whole world,
to think together. It made bargaining and the carrying on of financial
transactions between widely separated parties possible, and revolutionized
systems of commercial procedure that had endured for centuries.2 It
1 Davis, loc. cit., pp. 66-67.
2 "Memorial History of New York," Vol. III, p. 414:
The telegraph, which had come fairly into use by 1847, revolutionized the methods of business. Heretofore it had been the custom of the merchants of Pittsburg, Buffalo, Cleveland, and Cincinnati, and all the larger interior towns, to visit New York once a year and select their stock of goods for the coming year. Now all this was changed. The development of the railroad and the telegraph made it possible for the merchants of the interior to order any particular goods wanted, and to receive them within a day or two, so that the great wholesale houses, instead of carrying a large and miscellaneous stock of goods, began to limit themselves to a single line, and their customers in ordering would divide their orders among perhaps a dozen houses.
daily newspaper as, a medium for the reception and dissemination of the events of the world without delay. Here, again, it was the North whose solidarity was strengthened and social mentality unified and quickened by the telegraph. One method of communication was still in an extremely imperfect state, and was showing little signs of improvement. This was the postal service. Mails were carried only in the daytime. Not until 1860 do we read in a report of the postmaster-general of an "experiment" with a night mail between New York and Boston.
The systematic and complicated schemes of distribution, which are the foundation of present postal systems, were as yet unthought of. All distributing was done in the post-offices. No one had suggested a railway mail car for distribution en route. If the reader will try to work out a system of mail distribution on this plan to include 18,000 post-offices, the number that existed in 1850, he will gain some idea of the confusion and delay that prevailed. Separate pieces of mail would be received in each large city for nearly all of these post-offices. To sort this mail properly would require 18,000 mail sacks. This being impossible, all the mail going in one direction was sent in one sack. As this arrived at each office en route, it was opened, the contents taken out, sorted for the letters belonging to this particular office, and then the remainder of the mail returned to the sack to continue on its journey.
By the late fifties this plan had become absolutely unworkable, and it had been supplemented by another only a trifle less clumsy. Several larger cities were
designated as "distributing centers" for all offices near by.
Each "distributing center" had its separate pouch containing the mail for all contiguous offices. The mail was re-sorted at the "center" for the smaller offices. Soon "subsidiary distributing offices" had to be selected, so that mail was often stopped at two or three places for distribution. Two towns but a few miles apart, but within different "distributing centers," were sometimes compelled to wait weeks for the mail to go from one to the other, although passengers were regularly making the trip in a few hours.
The cost was very high for this inefficient service. Until 1845 rates for the minimum weight of letters was as follows : under 30 miles, six cents; 30 to 80 miles, ten cents ; 80 to 150 miles, 12 z cents ; 150 to 400 miles, 184 cents, and over 400 miles, 25 cents. While these rates lasted, many of the most important features of modern industry were impossible. They tended very strongly to the development of sectional as contrasted with national solidarity.
Population, transportation, and industry had now reached a stage where it was profitable for private enterprise to enter into competition with the post-office in the carrying of small parcels. Accordingly, William Harnden began what has since developed into the express business by carrying parcels between New York and Boston in 1839. The Adams Express Company grew out of this undertaking the next year, and the American Express Company came into existence one year later. The powerful Wells Fargo, that was to play so large a part in the control of Western trade, and especially of the traffic
incident to the discovery of gold in California, was founded in 1852.1 The United States Express Company started two years later. The express business is peculiarly American. In all other countries the functions performed by express companies are divided between the freight departments of the railroads and the postoffice. This would undoubtedly have been the case in this country, had it not been for the fact that the demand for this service came at a time when the idea of laissez faire and individual initiative ruled industrial and political life. At the very time when the mails were being changed from stagecoach to railroads, and when the government was beginning its policy of giving the land with which railroads were to be built, the express companies entered upon the scene and absorbed the most profitable portion of the mail business. Railroad charges prevented the post-office from entering into any effective competition with the express companies. Caught thus between the upper and the nether millstone, the post-office started upon that long career of deficits that have since served to hamper its operation.
The officials who had charge of the post-office at this time were not blind to
the dangers that threatened the postal system through the invasion of its
profitable business by the express companies. Postmaster-General Wickliffe, who
was in office from 1841 to 1845, protested in almost every report that the
express companies were violating the constitutional provision which gave the
government a monopoly of the postal business, and that they were doing this only
over the short hauls and in the
1 A. L. Stimpson, "History of the Express Business," pp. 34-79.
most thickly settled districts, leaving the unprofitable business to the government.1 His protests went unheeded, save in so far as they may have led Congress to the reduction of the rates of postage in 1845 to five cents per half ounce for less than 300 miles and ten cents for all distances over 500 miles.
By this time a movement had been started by Sir Rowland Hill in England for "penny postage." The essential point of this idea was not the penny unit, but the abolition of the distance charge; and in 1851 the rate for letters in the United States was reduced to three cents, without regard to distance.
We can hardly think of a letter and postal service apart from postage stamps, yet the adhesive stamp was first authorized in the United States in 1847, and made compulsory in 1856. In 1854 the system of registry fox valuable letters was introduced.
The postal service still lacked railroad distribution, money orders, low newspaper postage, free delivery, and several other things prominent at the present time. It was too imperfect to build up national solidarity, but was eminently fitted to bring much closer together the people of considerable sections of the nation.
Since the need of communication was much more strongly felt, and brought much
greater material benefits to an industrial than an agricultural nation, nearly
all steps looking to the improvement of the post-office met with the indifference
or active opposition of the chattel slave-owning cotton raisers of the
1 Reports of Postmaster-General, 1841, 1845 ; and opinion of Attorney-General, Nov. 13, 1843 ; also report of Congressional Committee in February, 1844.
The factory system, now firmly established, was extending and developing in all directions. Inventions, always the index of mechanical progress, were multiplying. Up to 1840 there had been 11,908 patents issued. This was the result of half a century. 31,523 patents were issued during the next twenty years. In other words, man's control over nature, and the accompanying transformation in all social relations, was almost three times as great in these twenty as in the previous fifty years.
These inventions were largely basic and revolutionary in their character. Elias Howe made the first sewing machine for which a patent was granted in 1846. McCormick patented the reaper in 1831, but never was able to make as many as five hundred in one year until 1845. In 1844 Goodyear laid the foundation of the present rubber industry by his discovery of the process of vulcanizing rubber. Iron rails were first rolled in this country in 1844, but only as an experiment. Even in 1855, when the Cambria Iron Company of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, rolled the first thirty-foot rails, it found no market for them. But by 1860 more than 200,000 tons of iron rails were manufactured in the United States. The center of this industry was now definitely located in the Pittsburg district, and it was here that the growth was most rapid.
A revolutionary change had taken place in the production of iron. In 1839
anthracite coal was first successfully used in a blast furnace. By 1855 more iron
was being produced with coal than with wood.1 Hitherto iron had
1 James M. Swank, "The Manufacture of Iron in All Ages," Chap. XXXV; A. S. Bolles, "Industrial History of the United States," pp. 202-204.
been made with charcoal, and the furnace must be kept close to the ever retreating forest. Now the elements in its manufacture were fixed as to location for long terms of years. Hereafter the location of the iron and steel industry was to depend upon the relation of four items ore, coal, limestone, and the market for the finished product.
In commerce, too, this was a time of swift upward development. By 1846 the tremendous tonnage of the Napoleonic days was equaled, and for the next ten years it shot up at an unparalleled rate, until American ships had a tonnage of more than 2,300,000, or nearly three times as great as at any period prior to 1845.1 These were the days of the famous "clipper" ships, the fastest sailing vessels ever launched.
Three inventions came in the years 1836 to 1838 that sounded the doom of American
maritime supremacy. These were the use of iron in shipbuilding, the application
of steam to ocean vessels, and the invention of the screw propeller.2
The cheaper iron of England was soon to drive the wooden ships of America from
the ocean. The shipbuilding trade declined on American soil. This fatal
competition had not progressed far enough prior to the Civil War to produce any
social effects of importance. In 1860 shipping was still in a stage of great
prosperity. The spread of railroads had not prevented a swift increase in the
amount of traffic on the inland waterways. While the efforts to use steam in
1 Coman, "Industrial History of the United States," pp. 228-229.
2 Bogart, "Economic History of the United States," pp. 206-207 Bolles, "Industrial History of the United States," pp. 591-595.
were unsatisfactory, because the imperfect machinery made it necessary to use nearly all the storage capacity of the ship for fuel, no such difficulty existed on the rivers and lakes of the Mississippi Valley, where fuel grew thick upon every bank. A type of steamer new to the history of shipbuilding was constructed for Mississippi River traffic. It was a broad, shallow craft, built low to the water's edge, but with two or more decks above, and great carrying capacity. So many of these were built that by 1856 the steam tonnage of the Mississippi River equaled that of the whole empire of Great Britain.1
The most important development of inland water transportation in this epoch was connected with the great system of inland lakes at the head of the Mississippi Valley, with their outlet to the East into the Atlantic. These Great Lakes were the highway that bound together a group of states with a common industrial and social structure. This group was to constitute the pivot upon which American politics were to make their greatest turn. The tonnage of vessels on this inland waterway, the greatest on the globe, grew from 75,000 in 1840 to 215,787 in 1850, and to nearly 500,000 in 1860.2
Yet it must not be forgotten that fast as all forms of inland water navigation were growing, railroad transportation was leaping forward at a far faster rate. By 1860 it was estimated that two thirds of the total internal trade moved over iron rails.3
The wave of progress that was working such changes in
1 Bolles, "Industrial History of the United States," pp. 588-595.
2 Bogart, "Economic History of the United States," pp. 209-210.
manufacture and commerce was lifting the foundations of that greatest and oldest and most immovable of industries - agriculture. Had the Roman Cincinnatus been raised from his sleep of centuries and placed upon an American farm in 1830, he would have seen few implements whose use he would not have been able to understand. The greatest change would perhaps have been the addition of a long and crooked handle and a number of fingers to an elongated blade of a sickle, by which process the grain cradle had been evolved. But farm labor was still hand labor. Almost no use was made of animals save for hauling loads and pulling the plow. A new era was at hand.
"The decade 1850 to 1860 was a period when American inventors were earnestly endeavoring to improve all classes of farm implements and machinery. It witnessed the beginning of the practical use of horse-driven machinery for cutting and threshing grain, the first of a series of changes that subsequently revolutionized the methods of work on all farms in the United States outside of those devoted to cotton-growing."1
The reason for this is found largely in the fact that this was the period of the
opening up of the first broad strip of prairie embracing Illinois, Iowa, and
eastern Kansas and Nebraska. Here it was possible to use many tools which could
not be employed upon the stony, stumpy farms of New England and the Ohio Valley.
Factory methods in the production of agricultural machinery were impossible
before the railroad system of the country was sufficiently developed to place a
1 Census 1900, Vol. V, Pt. I, p. xxvi.
number of farms within reach of a single central point.1 The application of agricultural machinery also requires a market for a crop in the raising of which such machinery can be used. When the railroads and the Great Lakes and canals opened a highway for the grain trade, this third condition was fulfilled. The first shipment of grain ever made from Chicago was in 1838, and the total amount sent out that year was 78 bushels. By 1845 more than a million bushels passed through this same port on the way to the markets of the world. In 1860 a total of 31,109,059 bushels went through the same gateway.2
The most important population movement of this period was the filling up of the
Great Lakes region. Hostile Indian tribes, imperfect transportation, and the fact
that immigration had come largely from slave territory and could not bring its
favorite institution into this locality with profit, all had contributed to keep
this great stretch of territory unsettled. Now all these obstacles were removed
at once. The Erie Canal and steam upon the lakes, followed by the railroad, threw
wide the gates to the incoming hosts. And the hosts were ready to come. The
manufacturing states of New England and New York and Pennsylvania were casting
out the first battalions of workless workers displaced by
1 Census 1900, Bulletin No. 200, on " Agricultural Implements," p. 18: " It was not until the western movement of the population had converted the rich alluvial plains of the western states into productive farms, and the railroad systems of the country had extended their lines for the distribution of farm products, that the progress and development of this industry (manufacture of agricultural machinery) found its full expression."
2 Eighth Census.
the machine and the superabundance of their own product. This army was reenforced by shiploads of immigrants. Europe, in the throes of the Revolution of 1848, was outlawing her rebellious workers and driving them by tens of thousands to America.
Natural calamity added to political upheaval in driving the European workers to the New World. A potato famine in Ireland in 1848 started the tremendous flood of Irish toward America, adding one of the most important factors of the social life of this country.1
Within the Northern states there was a great drift of population cityward. In 1830 only 6.7 per cent of the population of the country lived in cities of more than 8000 inhabitants. Twenty years later this percentage was 16.1.2 This was the time of the birth of the modern city proletariat, one of the most definite products of the capitalist system.
This great Northwest that was now being settled with such rapidity was quickly
seen to hold the balance of power between the hitherto contending sections of the
country. Whichever side could bind this section to it with bonds of economic
interest could dominate in the national government. The South had the start in
the race. The commercial artery of the section was the southward-flowing
Mississippi. The South bought its mules and the hay with which they were fed, as
1 Industrial Commission Report, Vol. XV, pp. 260-277. The total immigration by decades from 1821 was as follows : 1821 to 1830, 143,439; 1831 to 1840, 599,125; 1841 to 1850, 1,713,251; 1851 to 1860, 2,598,214. Of those who came between 1841 and 1860, 1,694,838 came from Ireland, and 1,386,293 from Germany.
2 "Statistical Atlas of the United States," 1900, p. 40.
the corn meal and pork that formed the slave ration, from this section.1 The East and the West were competing in agriculture. There was no little complaint over the fact that the cheapness with which grain could be raised in the West was depreciating farm values in New York and New England.2
When manufacture and commerce dominated the East, it became a buyer of agricultural products. It then competed with the South as a market for the agricultural West, instead of competing with the West as a seller in the Southern and all other markets. Henceforth the fight for the favor of the West was a fight of transportation routes. While nature seemed to favor the South in the beginning of this struggle, each new invention gave more advantage to the East. Moreover, in this direction lies Europe, to which much of the products of the prairies of the West was destined to flow.
The cities of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Baltimore fought with each
other in the effort to divert
1 Brown, "The Lower South in American History," p. 35.
2 Timothy Dwight, in the New England Magazine for April, 1848, says:
Soon after the completion of the Erie Canal, lands in New York began to increase in price, and rose steadily in value, until they were sold in many cases at from $60 to $100 an acre. But as soon as Ohio and Michigan began to produce wheat in quantities greatly exceeding their own consumption, and were able to deliver in Buffalo several million of bushels annually, the value of these lands began to decline. A year or two since we were informed that the depreciation was so great that lands which some years before had been mortgaged for two-thirds or three-fourths of their value would not at that time sell for the amount of the mortgage. The same thing is strikingly evinced by the fact that the aggregate population of twenty-four counties in the State of New York, comprising some of the most fertile in the central and western parts of the State, was less in 1845 than in 1840.
this trade through their gates.1 When, in 1853, the first railroad united Chicago with the Atlantic coast, DeBow estimated that the state of New York alone had expended more than a hundred million dollars in improving the routes to the Northwest which ran through her boundaries.2 In 1861 an English observer, quoted in the New York Times, estimated that $500,000,000 had been expended to "change the direction of the commerce of the Mississippi."3
This "reversing the mouths of the Mississippi" did not go on without protest from the South. At the numerous Southern conventions held in the years immediately preceding the war, one of the perennial subjects, along with the foreign slave trade, the conquest of new slave territory, and the encouragement of Southern manufactures, was the question of how this trade could be
1 William Grant, "Observations on the Western Trade," in Hudson
River R.R. Reports, pp. 12-16.
retained by the South. DeBow never ceased to urge the South to enter into competition with the North in the building of railroads. In 1851 he exclaims, "New Orleans in every period of her history has been the emporium of the West, and New Orleans will only give up that distinction after the most unremitting and herculean struggles have exhausted her energy. The sceptre has not yet departed, and if her citizens are true to themselves, the sceptre shall not depart."
The scepter did depart, however. The industrial capitalist had too great an advantage in such a struggle. The surplus value taken from wageworkers is much larger than that obtained from chattel slaves, and it is more readily converted into the capital needed for internal improvements. Wage labor is much more adapted to the construction of such works. It was but natural, therefore, that a railroad map of the United States published by DeBow in 1851 shows that not only are the roads actually constructed in the North much greater in mileage, while our later knowledge tells us that most of those dotted lines in the South indicating "projected roads" were not constructed until long after chattel slavery had disappeared.
In 1848 came the discovery of gold in California, followed by the wild rush to the Pacific coast, the inflation of the money basis, the possibility of a gold standard, and a safer system of banking. All these things helped to unify and strengthen the growing power of capitalism.
All things had worked together to weld the North into a compact section with common interests. The railroad and telegraph had given it industrial and social unity. The progress of invention, and the factory sys-
tem based upon the inventions, had brought it wealth and power. Agriculture, commerce, manufacture, and mining were in the wave of prosperity that accompanies the conquest of new fields. Everywhere the watchword was expansion.
Prior to about 1855 the interests of the North had been too sectional, competitive, and diversified to form the foundation of any common political action. Each little competing section had interests uniting it with the South. There was no widespread interest demanding control of the national government. Here we find the explanation of the sham fights between the Whigs and the Democrats, with their utter lack of any conflict of principles.1
There now arose a class throughout the North compact in its organization, definite and largely agreed in industrial interest, and having need of the national government to defend that interest. This was the little competitive bourgeoisie that had already overthrown feudalism in Europe. It was in the upper Mississippi Valley that this class ruled with fewest entangling alliances with other classes. Here old political ties were weak, and the new industrial interests keen. The new state governments commanded no such local and state patriotism as did the seaboard states, with their prerevolutionary traditions. The little capitalist mind possessed employers, wageworkers, and farmers alike. All hoped, and with better reason than at any time since, to become capitalists. The new and growing country about them apparently offered unlimited oppor
1 M. Ostrogorski, "Democracy and the Organization of Political
Parties," VoI. II, pp. 40-41.
tunity to" rise" -the highest ideal of the bourgeois mind. The members of this class wanted internal improvements built by the national government. They wanted a protective tariff. They favored immigration, - the manufacturer to cheapen labor, the landowner to raise real estate values, all to build up the country and bring "prosperity." They wanted a homestead law that should assure the remainder of the West to wage labor. They opposed any further extension of the slave power, and were determined to wrest the control of the national government from that power. All these desires found expression in the Republican party. There was an idealistic element in the organization of the Republican party that should not be overlooked. There is always such an element in any revolutionary movement, and the Republican party was essentially revolutionary in many of its purposes. It was demanding that the control of government be transferred to a new social class, and that is the essence of revolution. It was the same in the days of the French Revolution, -in the time of the repeal of the Corn Laws in England, and in every time of great social and political change. Such an idealistic element was already in existence in the Eastern states. Its prophet was Horace Greeley, and its inspired message was found in the columns of the New York Tribune. Around this paper, with Greeley at its head, had been gathered Charles A, Dana, as managing editor, Albert Brisbane, the Fourierite, as the contributor of a column each week on Utopian Socialism, and Karl Marx as principal European correspondent.
Seeing in the Republican party the incarnation of the ideals for which they had fought in Europe, the revolutionary German exiles of 1848 added their strength to the new political movement. This element included such men as Carl Schurz, afterward a cabinet officer, Weydemeyer, the Socialist and fellow-worker with Marx, and whole regiments like those who "fought mit Siegel" in the war that was already casting its shadow before.
1 John R. Commons, "Horace Greeley and the Working Class Origin of
the Republican Party," Political Science Quarterly, Vol. XXIV, No. 3.
The first railroad uniting Chicago with the East was completed in 1853, and the next year organizations bearing the name Republican party sprang up almost simultaneously in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio.1
The first national convention of the new party was held at Pittsburg in February, 1856. The committee calling that convention submitted an address which gives the following reasons for forming a new party:2
The slaveholding interest cannot be made permanently paramount in the general government without involving consequences fatal to free institutions. We acknowledge that it is large and powerful; that in states where it exists it is entitled under the constitution, like all other local interests, to immunity from the interference of the general government; and that it must necessarily exercise through its representatives a considerable share of political power. But there is nothing in its position, as there is certainly nothing in its character, to sustain the supremacy which it seeks to establish.
1 Francis Curtis, "The Republican Party," Chap. IV.
and honor, but upon its relation to the subject of slavery it- upon the effect it will have upon the interest of the slaveholding class.
It is plain that the indictment here is not of slavery, but of the rule of the slaveholding class. John C. Fremont, the candidate of the Republican party in this first campaign, received more votes than the Whig nominee and within a half million of the number received by Buchanan, the successful Democrat. More than 9o per cent of this vote came from New England and the states that touch the Great Lakes. Wherever in these states commercial connections were close with the South the Republican vote was small.1
During the next four years every force that had created the Republican party grew stronger. To these steadily growing forces was added that sudden shock which seems always necessary to bring long developing revolutionary forces to a climax. This shock was furnished by two events-the Dred Scott decision and the panic of 1857. The panic had the effect of accentuating the need of expansion of capitalist territory and markets, of emphasizing the need of controlling the national government and in general of sharpening class consciousness and class antagonisms.
The panic having created a highly unstable social compound, the Dred Scott decision furnished the spark that led to the explosion. The Supreme Court had been
1 James Ford Rhodes, "History of the United States," Vol. III, p. 227 "West of the Allegheny mountains the enthusiasm for Fremont was like that in New England, New York, and Ohio; but as one traveled eastward a different political atmosphere could easily be felt, and when one reached Philadelphia, which was bound to the South by a lucrative trade, the chill was depressing."
steadily usurping power since the days of Marshall. It had grown arrogant and isolated from popular sentiment. Years of Democratic control of the national government had packed the court with justices friendly to the slave power. Now it proceeded to enact into law things that the chattel slaveowners had never dared to ask of Congress.
Dred Scott was a negro whose master had taken him from Missouri into the free state of Illinois. When he was taken back to Missouri, he demanded his freedom on the ground that taking him into a free state had broken his master's right of property. The court not only decided against him, but, anxious to show its complete subserviency to the slavocracy, it proceeded to destroy all the carefully built up compromises by which politicians had sought to cover up the struggle between the North and the South. Chief Justice Taney, who has made his name infamous and the Supreme Court forever contemptible by this decision, went on to declare that slaves being property and not persons, neither Congress nor territorial governments could prevent the owner of slaves from going where he wished with his property.
This was telling the capitalists of the North that no matter what happened, while the slaveholders controlled the Supreme Court the powers of government were out of the reach of the society resting upon wage labor.
When the power of the slaveowner seemed strongest, when the Supreme Court had apparently placed him in complete command, it was inevitable that those who could not see that this was an act of desperation on the
part of a falling class, rather than of bold defiance by an impregnable ruler, should also grow desperate. Such a one was John Brown, who now hurled a new mass of explosives into the midst of the conflagration. In as recklessly foolish "propaganda of the deed" as was ever suggested by the most fanatical defender of "individual warfare" he tried, with a handful of men, to capture the United States arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. He dreamed that by so doing he would place himself at the head of an uprising of negro slaves, who would cut their way to liberty over the bodies of their masters. He seems to have combined the dream of the abolitionist, the bloody visions of bleeding Kansas (where he had been a doer of bloody deeds), and the slave-insurrection nightmare of the South, and from these phantoms sought to build a new society. Of course Brown's little force was wiped out, he was hung, and the North almost unanimously joined with the South in denouncing his action. But before twelve months had passed away, troops were marching southward to the tune of "John Brown's body lies a-moldering in the grave, but his soul goes marching on."
It would be foolish to pass judgment on the deed of John Brown. It was inevitable that in the terribly electric atmosphere that preceded the coming social storm, there should be some individual who should seek to "short circuit" the social forces, and get burned up for his pains. Such a phenomena did little more than demonstrate the existence of these forces.
When the Republican party held its next convention in the summer of 186o, the forces that were to carry it to victory had already been crystallized along well-
defined class lines. That convention was expected to nominate William H. Seward for President. He represented the idealistic, scholarly, antislavery element of New England. But the scepter had passed from the Northeast. The Great Lakes region was vigorously assertive in its right to be heard. This section put forward a young politician, whose fame rested largely upon the triumphs he had gained in a series of joint debates with Stephen A. Douglas. This man's name was Abraham Lincoln.
No man could better typify the class he represented than Lincoln. The product of the golden age of capitalism, he embodies all the best of that system. Strong common sense, marvelously keen judgment of men, shrewd insight into human relations, infinite patience and sterling honesty, - these were the ideal virtues of capitalism, and in Lincoln they reached their transcendent expression. He proved himself the "fittest to survive" in that fierce "struggle for existence" under those frontier conditions where the struggle was freer and fairer than the world has ever known elsewhere.
The days that produced Lincoln are gone. He will stand as the greatest American until some other social stage shall have produced its best. In some ways he stood above the system that produced him, but this is true of any man who incarnates the very best of any social system, because he must, perforce, incarnate something of the promise of that system.
To say that the Republican party was organized or that the Civil War was waged to abolish slavery, is but to repeat a tale invented after the war was almost over to glorify that party and the class it represented. No
candidate was ever a better representative of his party than Lincoln. He repeatedly and emphatically denied any intention of interfering with slavery in the South. In his debate with Douglas he said: "We have no right at all to disturb it in the states where it exists, and we profess that we have no more inclination to disturb it than we have the right to do it." In his first inaugural he declared his purpose to be to "save the Union" and this either with or without slavery.
So eager was the North and the Republican party to maintain the Union, and so indifferent were they to the slavery question, that after the election of Lincoln, both houses of Congress passed a provision for a constitutional amendment and sent it to the states for ratification, providing that slavery should be forever guaranteed and that no future amendment to the Constitution should ever be submitted authorizing Congress to interfere with slavery in the states where it was then located.1
The South seceded because no industrial system can continue unless its ruling class controls the government. This is especially true of a system based on exploitation. The South had no need of the North. Its industrial system was barred by soil and climate from expanding in that direction. If it had a government it could control, there was the possibility of expansion to the South. Even at the price of surrendering the system of chattel slavery the Southern ruling class preferred a government which it could control. Numerous proposals looking to the abolition of negro chattel slavery were considered in the Confederate Congress, when it was thought
1 J. Schouler, "History of the United States," Vol. V, p. 507.
that such action might possibly bring the support of France and England to the Confederate cause.1
The North, on the contrary, had a strong interest in maintaining the Union intact. Capitalism must expand, and it knows almost no limits of soil or climate. The South was largely in the nature of a colony of the North. Estimates of the debts of Southern planters and merchants to Northern capitalists in 186o run from forty to four hundred million dollars.2 These debts were promptly repudiated on the outbreak of war. The Confederate government authorized the payment of such debts to it instead of to the original creditor.3
When, therefore, the capitalist class came into power through Lincoln and the Republican party, secession by the South and Civil War to prevent that secession were inevitable.
1 American Historical Review, Vol. I, p. 97.